New Zealand is a haven for cyclists with officially 22 Great Rides that traverse mountains, go through train tunnels, along forest trails, past snow-capped fields, and meander alongside rivers – you won’t be disappointed. Some rides can be done in just one day where others can be 6-days long. Whatever your age or ability there’s a ride in New Zealand that is suitable for all ages and abilities.
We have selected our top 5 greatest bike rides in New Zealand with each one providing a completely different riding experience for you, your friends and family!
1. Otago Central Trail, Otago, South Island
This is the original great New Zealand bike ride, and many people still say it’s one of the best in the country. This 152 kilometre ride, between Clyde and Middlemarch, will take you across former rail bridges and through rail tunnels. Doing this over three or four days is perfect for families and novice cyclists as the gravel path is wide and the gradient never exceeds two per cent. Along the way you will see abandoned gold diggings, actor Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks winery located just a few kilometres off the trail and if you take a detour near Ranfurly you can visit the Southern Hemisphere’s only indoor curling rink.
2. Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, Nelson, South Island
Tasman’s Great Taste Trail is an extensive three-to-four-day cycle loop starting from Nelson – the sunniest place in New Zealand. As the name suggests, this 175-kilometre trail has plenty of food and wine stops as well as some incredible scenery. You will come across amazing birdlife as you cycle along the Waimea Estuary and out onto Rabbit Island. The trail takes you through some lush valleys to the edge of the Tasman National Park. Highlights include a visit to Connings Food Market at Old Factory Corner; fish and chips at the Smokehouse in Mapua; and Berry Lands in Appleby where kids can pick their own in-season berries. This trail can also be broken down into four sections of day rides too, Nelson—Mapua, Motueka—Kaiteriteri (return), Stoke—Brightwater (return), Spooners Tunnel (between Belgrove & Kohatu).
3. West Coast Wilderness Trail, West Coast, South Island
The West Coast Wilderness trail has it all – glacial rivers, dense rainforest, snow-capped mountains, and untamed wetlands. The easy grade 2 trail stretches from Greymouth’s historic port to the old gold mining town of Ross. The trail naturally splits into four three-to-five-hour per day rides. The first being Greymouth to Kumara (31 kilometres), followed by overnight stops at Milltown (36 kilometres), then Hokitika (36 kilometres), before finishing in Ross (33 kilometres). That should allow you plenty of time each day to explore things like the Mahinapua tramway, jade (pounamu) studios and the amazing West Coast Treetop Walkway at Hokitika.
4. Twin Coast Cycle, North Island
This easy 87-kilometre trail runs from the Bay of Islands on the East to Hokianga Harbour on the West coast and can be ridden – in either direction – at any time of the year. The trail is considered an easy and relaxing ride, offering rolling farmland and native forestry, mixed with prominent cultural and historical sites. Make sure you stop at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, New Zealand’s most important historic site and see the Treaty of Waitangi itself. The best way to experience Waitangi is by joining one of the regular guided tours.
5. Mountain to Sea Cycle Trails, Ruapehu, North Island
This 297-kilometre challenging ride connects two national parks and runs alongside the Whanganui River, and is an opportunity to New Zealand’s natural wonders at its best. If you start at the Tongariro National Park and work your way back to Whanganui the track is mostly downhill. Along this track you will be travelling through some remote, densely forested trails. Expect to see the occasional smoking volcano, towering bluffs, the Bridge to Nowhere and an old, cobbled coach road. If you want to power through, this ride can be done in four days but if you’re in no rush take your time and complete it in six days.